MacArthur Memorial Honors US 42nd “Rainbow” Division in WW1 With Exhibition

The I.D. Disc belonging to poet Joyce Kilmer who was killed in action serving with the 42nd "Rainbow Division" in 1918.

The I.D. Disc belonging to poet Joyce Kilmer who was killed in action serving with the 42nd “Rainbow Division” in 1918.

The MacArthur Memorial – museum, archives, and final resting place of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur – in Norfolk, VA, has created one of the first exhibits in the United States commemorating the up-coming centennial of World War I. Under the Rainbow: The 42nd “Rainbow” Division in the Great War tells the story of one of the first National Guard units to arrive on the battlefields of France. But the 42nd Division was a unique unit – unlike other National Guard divisions which hailed from one specific geographic locale, the 42nd was composed of troops from 26 different states and the District of Columbia. This caused the division’s Chief of Staff, Col. Douglas MacArthur, to remark that the 42nd covered the United States “like a rainbow;” a sentiment that gave rise to the division nickname, the “Rainbow Division.” The Rainbow Division would amass one of the finest fighting records of any division – regular, volunteer or National Guard – in the American Expeditionary Forces. From its activation in August 1917 through the Armistice in November 1918 the 42nd was in combat longer than any other American division and suffered more than 50% casualties. It also included in its ranks some very prominent figures of American history: Douglas MacArthur; William “Wild Bill” Donovan, head of the Office of Strategic Services – forerunner of the CIA – during World War II; Charles Summerall, future Army Chief of Staff; Father Francis Duffy, famed Catholic leader in New York City; and poet Joyce Kilmer.

Under the Rainbow tells the story of the officers and men of the Rainbow Division from its inception at Camp Mills, New York in the summer of 1917, across the battlefields of France, and into occupation service in Germany until the dissolution of the division in the spring of 1919. Many of the items exhibited have never before been on display at the MacArthur Memorial; among the highlights are the uniform and equipment of Lt. Col. Cooper Winn, commander of the 151st Machine Gun Battalion; dog tag of the poet Joyce Kilmer, killed at the Battle of the Marne in July 1918; and an extensive collection of Rainbow Division Veterans Association memorabilia. The exhibit runs through September 2014.

Click here for more details on “Under the Rainbow” and The MacArthur Memorial.